Saturday, October 21, 2006

Business method patents will make heroes of hackers

In 1998 a US appeals court made a terrible mistake. They ruled business methods could be patented ...
Patent law is getting tax crazy - Business - International Herald Tribune

As the American tax law gets more and more complicated, lawyers have come up with one more way to make life difficult for taxpayers: Now you may face a patent infringement suit if you use a tax strategy that someone else thought of first.

"I can't even imagine what it will be like in 5 or 10 years," said Dennis Drabkin, a tax lawyer with Jones Day in Dallas, "if anytime a lawyer or accountant gives tax advice, they have to find out if there is a patent on this." He notes that researching patents, and then licensing them, would just make tax compliance more costly.

Drabkin is chairman of an American Bar Association task force on the issue. He said that at one conference where tax strategies were discussed, participants later got a letter warning that using one idea mentioned would be in violation of a patent.

Why would Congress pass a law allowing such a thing? The answer is that it did not. But a U.S. appeals court ruled in 1998 that business methods could be patented, and since then the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 50 tax- strategy patents, with many more pending.
Congress should reverse the court's mistake -- no matter how loud the screaming. Alas, there's about zero chance of that happening, our polity is far too corrupt.

The combination of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), business process patents, and digital-rights management is going to make us all either miserable or criminal. Hackers will be heroes yet.

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